I just feel like this is appropriate Sunday food.
Or appropriate any day food. I mean, there is cheese, pasta and bacon. What could not be delicious and everyday about that?
For some reason, I have really been wanting to make mac and cheese for like forever now. I think maybe because it is autumn, and our autumn weather tends to be more like winter weather. Which means mac and cheese should probably be on the menu at least once a week from now until spring. I do have to say though, this last week was pretty beautiful. Monday it snowed… and snowed hard, but the rest of the week was full on sunshine and decent temps during the day.
This was really good since there was a lot of stuff happening down at the barn this week. I now have floors!! Hooray!! I decided on colored concrete floors… I know it sounds odd, but I promise it’s all good. I have been taking pictures, but I am waiting to do one big post, so everything doesn’t look so well um, scary.
And you guys, here is the thing about this barn. We have run into a lot of bumps along the way, but things are finally moving along and I have to say that my family has been such a huge part of actually building this barn. Mom’s still kicking ass as the BIG GC (general contractor) and she has had my brother Kai, his friend Blake (who really is like a member of this family because he chooses to live here and not at his own home for I’d day 85% of the year) and my dad down there working almost everyday. On Thursday night, they where all down there till almost 11:00 working. My dad gets off work at three, so that is when they started and they literally didn’t stop for the next eight hours. SO incredibly thankful for those guys right now.
I felt so guilty though. I mean, all this work for me? What the heck did I do to deserve that? Granted Kai and Blake were told they must help, and Kai did get his English paper practically written by mom in return, but still, I was feeling like I really needed to make everyone some good food. So I decided now was the time to make everyone’s favorite. BUT please, don’t anyone tell the boys that they ate squash. I of course left half of the mac and cheese without any brussels sprouts, but the squash they unknowingly ate… and loved. It’s the cheese, pasta and um most definitely the bacon that they fell so hard for.
Actually, it really may have just been the bacon, they stinkin’ love bacon. Boys.
Oh, and if you are wondering why I have got my family down at the barn working and not paid workers it’s because workers are so not cheap (and OMG, neither is this barn, who knew? clearly not us.) and SO not reliable. Yes, we have workers for the big jobs, but the little crap jobs (we may call them another word) go to Kai or Dad or even Blake. Gotta save money were you can!
Anwhooo, this Mac n’ Cheese with Buttery Bacon Ritz Crackers, it’s obviously delicious… but wait it is semi healthy for us too!!
Yes, there is bacon, butter and cheese, and I know those are not health foods, but there is also a whole four cups of pureed butternut squash, half a pound of brussels spouts and a whole lot of my very favorite whole wheat pasta.
I of course used DeLallo whole wheat pasta, and you guys, my family did not even notice one bit that this was whole wheat. Not even the picky boys. I have to say that this may be one of the healthiest meals those boys eat. I know that’s crazy, but they are some picky boys! Honestly, this pasta is one of my favorites for family meals, especially knowing I am squeezing in some whole wheat goodness.
Ok and the buttery, crunchy bacon topping? That is the best. No seriously the best.
*This post is sponsored by DeLallo Foods. rel=”nofollow”All opinions are of course my own.
Butternut Squash + Charred Brussels Mac and Cheese with Buttery Bacon Ritz Crackers.
- 4 cups butternut squash peeled and cut into small cubes
- 3 cups brussels sprouts sliced thin (into shreds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 pound of your favorite short cut [DeLallo Whole Wheat Pasta | http://www.delallo.com/whole-wheat-pasta]
- 6 slices thick cut bacon chopped
- 1 1/2 cups crushed Ritz crackers about 1 sleeve
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups warm milk I used 2%
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 cup fontina cheese shredded (add an extra 1/4 cup...if you want!)
- 4 ounces blue cheese crumbled (or 1 cup more fontina or cheddar)
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the butternut squash on a roasting pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil + a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the brussels sprouts on a separate sheet pan and toss with tablespoon olive oil, the brown sugar + a pinch of salt. Roast for both for 25-30 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking. I removed my brussels before my squash because they cook faster.
Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees F. Set the brussels sprout aside and add the hot squash to a blender or food processor. Add 1/4 water and puree until smooth and creamy.
Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until al-dente. You want it to have a bit of bite. It will finish cooking in the oven. Drain well.
While the pasta boils, add the bacon to a medium-large size pot. Fry the bacon until crisp, remove and drain on paper towels. To the hot bacon grease, add in the crushed Ritz crackers and toss to coat.
Toast the crumbs for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Once the crumbs are lightly toasted remove form the heat and set aside.
In the same pot you fried the bacon, melt the 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let cook/bubble for 1 minute, stirring once or twice to avoid burning. Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream, raise the heat up to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently until the sauce has thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the cheese, mustard powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese and butternut squash puree until the cheese is fully melted. Stir in the pasta + charred brussels sprouts. Transfer to the prepared baking dish or if using cast iron, bake right in the same pot.
Evenly sprinkle on the toasted cracker crumbs + bacon and place the baking dish on a baking
Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
Remove from the oven and let site five minutes (yeah, right). Dig in!!
And if you eat this all yourself… I totally understand.